The City of Atascadero has received complaints regarding mask-wearing within businesses since the second stay at home order was authorized, but the city can only do so much when it comes to enforcement.
“This is probably the most important time to comply,” said Phil Dunsmore, Atascadero’s Community Development Director.
Business is not as usual during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the City of Atascadero is no exception. California Alcohol Beverage Control says it has about 50 open investigations in San Luis Obispo County businesses where health order violations may be occurring; three of them are in Atascadero. There are 53 businesses that are licensed by the ABC in the city.
The ABC can issue warnings and citations and revoke licenses, but the city doesn’t have an ordinance to fine those not abiding; Atascadero uses a voluntary compliance system.
“We go for a voluntary approach, the educational approach, and we also go for an award approach; we give grant awards to some of the businesses that are in compliance to help them stay alive during COVID,” said Dunsmore.
“For us, it’s not an optional thing,” said Jacque Fields, who owns Wild Fields Brewhouse in Atascadero with her husband.
The couple says they received city funding and were just breaking even when outdoor dining was available, but the health and safety of their employees and customers come before a profit.
“At the end of the day, we all have our own business plans and models and opinions,” said Fields. “What guides us the most is that at the end of the day, if someone were to get sick at our business and someone was to die as a result, we wouldn’t be okay with that.”
The city and its businesses are keeping a positive outlook for the future of commerce.
“I feel like Atascadero has it in us. We started our business in Atascadero because of how much the community rallies around each other,” said Fields. “I want to see less ‘us’ or ‘them.’ I want to see more of us united and taking care of each other as humans.”
“If we can just hang on a few months longer, we will be out there, and we will be back in business. We see future business in Atascadero to be better than ever,” said Dunsmore.
Several businesses that are not fully cooperating with the voluntary compliance declined to comment. The window to apply for the city’s grant money closed January 4th, but there are still a California Small Business Relief Grant Program and a Paycheck Protection Program businesses can apply for. Click here for more information.